Tag Archives: Brandon Lewis

Blame and culpability are not the same

The setting is one that has been going on for a while. We can hide, we can blame. Yet the culpability is one that is much larger and it is seemingly aimed at the wrong people. The one that did set me off most was not some Murdoch article, you would expect that. No, it was the Times with: ‘The Grenfell fire inquiry has revealed serious shortcomings in firefighters’ training, but none so serious as a reluctance to react to fast-changing events‘. If we look at certain elements, we can deduce that part and give that a thumb up rating. Yet, I do not believe that this is the case, I believe that certain players are setting the stage and the lighting on the people in this oversized drama, whilst the light is moved away from the actual events and the actual players behind the screen. You see a lot of issues were clear within 5 minutes (always the case after the facts), I spoke about them in my blog of June 2017 ‘Under cover questions‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2017/06/23/under-cover-questions/). The brochure alone gave me so many red flags that this was a much larger danger. So before there were firefighters. There were the people behind the renovation, there were the decision makers, there were the architects of the plan, there were the people who gave the final word. These people were to be fried, baked and were to be interrogated in a very uncomfortable way. When I wrote it, I also saw the Guardian article ‘Complex chain of companies that worked on Grenfell Tower raises oversight concerns‘ raising a few additional concerns. So when we look at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. We see (at https://www.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/news/prime-minister-announces-inquiry-terms-reference) the following points.

(a) the immediate cause or causes of the fire and the means by which it spread to the whole of the building;

(b) the design and construction of the building and the decisions relating to its modification, refurbishment and management;

(c) the scope and adequacy of building regulations, fire regulations and other legislation, guidance and industry practice relating to the design, construction, equipping and management of high-rise residential buildings;

These are the first three points, and it seems to me that this should have been the order. Now, I can accept that they are working on the firefighters first, as the better it is in their memory, the better the quality of the statements. Yet, it is my personal believe that the Times misfired (one of the least likely events in the history of journalism) for the simple reason that nothing about this fire was normal. Anything that could have gone possibly wrong did and when we go back to one of the scariest parts in all this was talked about in my earlier blog too. The footage (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUtjSspO_BU) gives us the recordings on the fireman still on route trying to get TO the fire. They were in disbelief that this was real, so even we hear the talks on the fire fighters being banned talking to the media. Now we see the disgraceful words of the Times (which is an unique in my view as well). The revelations by John Sweeney (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrzcjUhf61w) give us even more (not at present, but at the initial point), it gives us that the first fire engine arrived in 4 minutes. The BBC gives a much better light and the one part that I stated in the beginning and still believe that is true, is that the Firefighters should have been made untouchable by the media until the inquiry is done. Even as we see the critical answers that BBC Newsnight received by Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union is an internal one and he is stating that certain things needed to be looked at. Certain protocols had to be changed. Yet here too the bigger story is not merely what was missed, or what was done. It is what should have been there from the earliest beginning and we see close to zero on that. Yet there were water pressure issues, it was not enough to fight fires, and it became worse when all the levels of concrete hindered communications. Yet the first light was given by Sky News on November 27th 2017 when we hear (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pS3cIF6g24), at 0:45 we hear “we had a push to insulate buildings and easiest, the cheapest way to insulate them is to use these combustible materials“, a clear danger, the Reynobond PE brochure calls even more questions on the failing, yet all eyes are on the fire fighters and I found the Times article the most upsetting one. So, we would not have been surprised to the Telegraph giving us: “The inquiry has previously heard from Dr Barbara Lane, a leading fire engineer, that the controversial stay put policy had “substantially failed” by 1.26am when flames could be seen to have reached the top of the 23-storey tower block“, I expected more and better from the Times. You see, the ‘Stay Put’ protocol makes perfect sense, if all the proper elements are in place and we learned later that not only were they not in place, we see the effect of a fire growing outside of a CONCRETE building that caused the dangers. A danger I correctly identified in less than 5 minutes, and that included the time required to Google search the Reynobond brochure, downloading, and reading it.

We are also given from several sources that repeated warnings were ignored. And that gets us to part 4 of the inquiry. There we see:

(d) Whether such regulations, legislation, guidance and industry practice were complied with in the case of Grenfell Tower and the fire safety measures adopted in relation to it;

There is an important overlap between part c where we see “industry practice relating to the design, construction, equipping and management of high-rise residential buildings” as well as part (d) where we see: “whether such regulations, legislation, guidance and industry practice were complied with“. Here we get to understand the setting of the stage for the fire, yet the stage is larger. The entire consideration by the decision makers on the refurbishment of Grenfell and what happens after are receiving governmental isolation from the event and there is where we see the setting of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO). When we consider the message on September 27th 2017 where we are treated to: “Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) has voted unanimously to terminate its contract with the landlord of Grenfell Tower“, we still see that there is not one, but there are two elements missing in the dock and the people have a right to grill these two players as well. It is my personal view that there is a systemic failure here, but the reach of the failure is a little in the wind as we are unaware of all the legalised settings of responsibility, that is also an element that we should look at, because the deeper the failure goes, the larger the problem for London and its mayor Sadiq Khan.

So even as Sky News treats us to the LFB chief testimony with: “The London Fire Brigade chief told the inquiry she would change nothing about her team’s response on the night of the fire and defended the crews’ “fantastic” actions – to which survivors in the room shook their heads“, I wonder how many saw the YouTube video where the firemen saw the blaze already going on and these people still ran into the fire with whatever they could. That in view of “At that point £300,000 was removed from the cladding budget and zinc panels were replaced with the aluminium composite material with the plastic core“, It is at this point when we need to realise that the Chair of Grenfell gives us what is actually important ion all this: “Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the chair of the Grenfell Tower inquiry which opens in full on 4 June, has said he wants to find out “what decisions about the exterior of the building … were made, by whom and when”. He also wants to know whether the cladding and insulation met building regulations and standards, who was responsible if they did not and “what factors or motives influenced the decisions”“, this setting as given by the Guardian in May 2018 reflects what I stated a year earlier, it is what matters and whilst everyone is having a go at the London Fire Brigade, whilst the initial phone call on a stove with a fire did not include the part: “We are about to call you to a fire that has (intentionally or not) been designed to become a roman candle, burning hotter than a crematorium, designed to kill as many as possible and leave nothing in working order when the fire is done, you will optionally never ever have trained for such an event, as this has not happened since the 1974 when John Guillermin created the Towering Inferno“, which with the eye on irony was actually made by heaven forbid, a British film director, all elements ‘clearly’ seen and not currently reflected upon in the inquiry until much later (not the movie part).

Yet the movie part still matters, you see, when we take a little trip back into time, we see the events of February 1, 1974, the same year the movie was made. Here we are treated to the story of the Joelma Building disaster. Here too we see that there was no sprinkler and no smoke alarms. The 1974 Joelma Building fire was the worst skyscraper-related disaster in history until the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, and when you realise that the fire brigade was left with no options and that the fire went out on its own because there was nothing left to burn, only then do you perhaps realise that this was a clear sign that the story was not about the firemen, it was about the 179 people who lost their lives. Add to this the setting of the Lakanal House fire of July 3rd 2009 in Camberwell London and when we realise that at a meeting of Southwark Council, Cllr Ian Wingfield called for a “full and independent public inquiry” into the fire, which was supported by the Fire Brigades Union and that no public inquiry was conducted into the Lakanal House fire. We end up being treated to three clear signs that Grenfell could have been avoided largely BEFORE the fire even started. We get that final part through: “the fire spread unexpectedly fast, both laterally and vertically, trapping people in their homes, with the exterior cladding panels burning through in just four and a half minutes“. All clear statements of facts, all evidence on what happened, not reflected on and with “At that point £300,000 was removed from the cladding budget“, we see what clearly might reflect on the criminal setting of Murder through optional intentional negligence. I wonder if the inquiry will ever touch on that, at present, with the Times giving us ‘shortcomings on fire fighters’ the survivors and for now living relatives of Grenfell, they are not given the whole setting and even as there is a governmental need to critically look at Grenfell tower, it should show a lot more because I am decently certain that the failure will remain after the inquiry. You see, I will call on another piece of evidence, it is the instructed actions by solicitor, Vimal Sama, dated 25th July 2013, where we see that Francis O’Connor was facing optional prosecution on: “defamatory behaviour” and “harassment.” (the Independent at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-fire-blogger-threatened-legal-action-kensington-and-chelsea-council-health-safety-a7792346.html), in that part, when we see the actions of “Kensington and Chelsea Council threatened a resident of Grenfell Tower with legal action after he blogged about his concerns over fire safety“, so did the media ever give everyone in London that particular blog and those relevant stories? In addition that article also gives us: “It has also been reported that former housing minister Brandon Lewis “sat on” information and resisted making sprinklers a legal requirement because it would “discourage building”“. In light of that at what point will the chairman of the conservative party be asked a few questions on the wisdom of resisting making sprinklers a legal requirement? Was that after he left that the impact would have been noticed?

All these valid questions on the setting that matters in a few areas (perhaps not at present at this exact stage of the inquiry), yet it gives me the first and perhaps only moment when I feel that this might be the one and only time that I tell John Witherow, editor of the Times:

Bad Form! This was badly done!

 

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Physical vs Virtual (part1)

The Guardian has two elements today; they are not connected, not in any way. Yet they are both important and they do connect in other ways and that part is actually a lot more important than you think, let’s take a look at part 1.

Physicality

To upset the reader, I will start with ‘On 14th June 2017 there was a clambake in North Kensington!‘ 71 people lost their lives and an almost equal number of people were seriously injured. I have written about it in previous blogs in both June and September 2017. It was renovated and that job was completed in 2016. Now, I can give you all the names, but the names actually do not matter at present, the issue of renovation was however more important. An interesting and slightly more important part is ‘the then housing Minister Gavin Barwell, refused requests for meetings‘, we will look at him later. You see there is an even larger issue, not the obvious ones, the ones I gave in June 2017 showing that there was published evidence that the entire choice of purchase was already a hazard by the selling company. No, it gets worse ‘Cladding added to Grenfell Tower to ‘improve view for nearby luxury flats’‘, this is what the Metro gave on June 14th 2017. Charles White had the scoop. We can also take the view “Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 and housed low-income families in Latimer Road, North Kensington“, so the cladding was added to make their presence less sickening to those around them. Well, as Roman candles go, those rich neighbours really had one ready for the victims of Grenfell didn’t they? In all this, and all the fuck ups that were saw, witnessed and in equal measure saw the media partially avoid, did no one see the brochure where we saw “It’s perfect for new and retrofit projects less than 40 feet (three stories) high“, the mere setting in the brochure and these highly paid individuals never bothered to ask the question and get on paper the certification for a 24 storey building? So how about the extension of 21 floors? It would be on top of my mind, but then I am not a graduated civil engineer. I merely don’t trust anyone trying to sell me ‘a great deal‘, not without proper investigation. So when I read ‘Leaseholders of flats face £40,000 bills over Grenfell type cladding‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/19/leaseholders-of-flats-face-40000-bills-over-grenfell-type-cladding). I wonder who should pay for all this, the luxury flat neighbours (implied that they pushed for a ‘better view’, they certainly got that whilst the fire brigades required 60 hours to fully stop the fires and close to 48 hours to remove the charcoal cadavers that used to be tenants in that building. Is this description upsetting you and making you angry? Good! I want you to be angry, because there is a systemic failure in the London boroughs when it comes to housing and it is still there. So whilst we see that Gavin might be all about ‘How to Win a Marginal Seat: My Year Fighting For My Political Life‘ and less about meeting with people who have genuine concerns on the safety of their lives, a person who was Minister for London as well as Minister of State for Housing and Planning seemed to have been in the middle of it all AFTER the renovation. So, even as his reign was flawed by not acting, we equally need to put Brandon Lewis, now the Chairman of the Conservative Party, as well as Kris Hopkins, who is now Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Northern Ireland Office in the spotlight. Even as Gavin has the gavel of dumbness, he was not there when it started and that has to be acknowledged in equal measure. The entire cladding issue is a mess from a civil, an engineering a political and a legal aspect. It is rare for something like that to fail on pretty much every level. That and a few other matters give rise to a much larger investigation, because if I can get angry and demand investigations into the EU gravy train, my anger on this mess needs to be even greater. And there is a growing number of pieces of evidence. With the ‘2009 Lakanal House fire, in Camberwell, South London, six died and at least twenty injured‘, the Guardian reported (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/feb/24/southwark-council-admits-safety-failings-tower-block-lakanal-house-blaze), in February 2017, LONG BEFORE THE GRENFELL FIRE, reported ‘Southwark council pleads guilty over worst ever tower block fire‘, that alone should have pushed Gavin Barwell into action, yet there we see ehhh… nothing. There was a big nothing done, even a blogger who got told “The council had threatened the Grenfell Action Group with legal action in 2013 in a bid to prevent the group criticising the council, saying that such criticism amounted to “defamation and harassment”.” Again it is the Metro who gives us “The letter, which was allegedly sent in 2013, was sent by a solicitor working for Kensington Town Hall“, so can we please see the name of that solicitor published as well as the people he was representing? You see, that letter was in response from someone and we should be told who that someone was. In addition, me, myself, I and a whole range of people, including family members of the charcoaled tenants will have some loud questions for that person. In this we end up with even more questions as ‘Robert Black, the Chief Executive of KCTMO, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation responsible for managing Grenfell Tower on behalf of the council‘, which the Independent gave us is according to the Coventry Telegraph. You see, when we consider the mess already in place, and we accept that Retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick is the appointed legal person to lead the public inquiry. How can anyone accept “The board wishes to ensure that KCTMO remains best positioned to fully co-operate and assist with the inquiry and so it has agreed with its chief executive, Robert Black, that Mr Black should step aside from his role as chief executive of KCTMO in order that he can concentrate on assisting with the investigation and inquiry“, in this the quote “The welfare of the residents of KCTMO remains the primary concern of the board” reads like a joke, 4 years of inaction, 4 years to miss what I saw in 5 minutes and three more facts of endangering the people living in Grenfell, which I found within the 30 minutes after that. In all this there is every chance that Robert Black is all about making sure that some questions are not asked and that some pieces of evidence are ‘not to be shown to the prosecution‘, the last part is merely speculation on my side, yet I wonder if anyone will be able to prove me wrong in the end.

So as we now get back to the other building where: “Residents of 80 flats whose freeholds are managed by a company owned by David Cameron’s half brother-in-law are each facing bills of up to £40,000 because the building is clad with flammable panels similar to those used on Grenfell Tower, in London“, I am less concerned who is a family member of who. I am more interested in the entire timeline on how cladding was chosen and how it was approved. If there is one clear timeline in evidence than it is the one where it is more and more clear that those connected to Grenfell were utterly incompetent, or they just didn’t know what they were doing. So even as all these boroughs will carry the weight of the Grenfell victims, we need to see the clear timeline for each building separately and in that Dominic Raab, the now Minister of State for Housing and Planning, is handed the nightmare scenario of a lifetime. Yet in all this, if he can pull through and improve the mess we are facing now, he won’t just meet with happy tears of joy from those around him, he could show that when true justice is found and that the matters are strong set in both legislation and borough procedure, there is every chance that his ascension as a future Prime Minister is not out of the question. For one man to show the failure of years of predecessors (with Alok Sharma being optionally acquitted to some extent in all this) there will be shouts of joy. I intentionally set Alok Sharma in that light because even as the surviving tenants of Grenfell have been failed in several ways, we need to be honest and fair and assess what resources Alok Sharma had available. I actually do not have those details or access to that data. As such I refuse to paint him in the same colours that his predecessors deserve. And the mess is still not over, that is seen (at https://www.lgcplus.com/services/housing/kensington-and-chelsea-too-slow-to-rehouse-grenfell-survivors/7023801.article) where we get the following parts all together making the mess even more severe.

  • Mr Raab said: “[There are] 208 households that require housing – of which, 59 have accepted temporary accommodation and 60 are in permanent accommodation.” That is up 16 since 25 January.
  • Ms Dent Coad said: “In November, we were told there were 209 displaced households, but I was given the true figures from the council’s housing department which was 376. “There’s just a total mismatch, originally we were told displaced people made homeless was 863 so these figures have been washed, let’s just put it like that.”
  • “There’s just a total mismatch, originally we were told displaced people made homeless was 863 so these figures have been washed, let’s just put it like that.” Housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid responded saying Ms Dent Coad’s statistics referred to the wider estate and not the Grenfell tower and walkway alone.

So we have Emma Dent Coad, the MP for Kensington, Dominic Raab, now Minister of State for Housing and Planning and Housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid needing to explain in the Local Government Chronicle that on one matter Emma Dent Coad and Dominic Raab cannot communicate in the same version of English, it merely is an exercise in miscommunication, and there is an issue of mistrust from the tenants? I am not at all surprised, merely surprised that a gang with pitchforks and torches have not moved in to deal with black magic and witchcraft, for such levels of miscommunication pretty much warrants that, especially if Robert Black ends up being related to the other Black family, something JK Rowling mentioned in some way in the recent past (that was a funny, for those who cannot read between the lines).

It is an almost intolerable mess and it seems that other buildings, especially the overreacting and not properly investigating management firms are now crying fowl (in the end someone has to be the Turkey in all this) and lashing the bills on anyone’s desk (allegedly) where they could possible pass the buck (read: £40,000). All this in a setting of physicality of events, paper trails that are either so murky that a team of barristers cannot decipher it and half-baked agreements where it is unclear if the tenants were ever properly informed. Finally in this matter there is Sir Martin Moore-Bick. That side is important when we see (at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40491449), you see, I disagree. There is absolutely no case for “Labour’s Emma Dent Coad said Sir Martin Moore-Bick was “a technocrat” who lacked “credibility” with victims“, this is about the law. And someone like Emma Dent Coad, who got elected with a 0.05% margin (20 votes) with merely a degree from the Royal College of Art with an MA in History of Design has no real setting to judge on law does she? At least I myself do have two law degrees, one of them a master degree (they are Australian though) as well as a graduate degree in Internet working, so I am at least also technologically savvy. In addition the BBC piece gives us nothing more than the focus on one overturned case. I think that ignoring the 20 years as a judge of the Commercial Court and Court of Appeal warrants his appointment. The entire labour arsenal is all shouting to ‘connect’ to people, yet to properly investigate all matters; it is a step of legislation and logic, not emotion. Is there a better person to head the inquiry? I do not know, but in equal measure there is no evidence that he is the wrong person. In all as it comes to law and optional lack thereof, there is absolutely no evidence that Emma Dent Coad is qualified to be an MP; she was merely elected as Member of Parliament for Kensington. Sir Martin Moore-Bick is overly qualified as a judge, it is the distinction that makes the setting, and her ‘miscommunication‘ quoted earlier should give additional doubt to her point of view in all this.

 

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